The San Francisco 49ers entered the 2020 NFL Draft with seven selections. They did not make one single pick at their original spot. That’s one of the first times this has happened in some time.
It’s crazy to think about. San Francisco pulled off almost a half dozen trades during the three-day event. This included moving two veterans in that of Matt Breida and Marquise Goodwin while adding future Hall of Famer Trent Williams to replace the retired Joe Staley.
As it relates to the draft picks themselves, it was all about who San Francisco added in Round 1. Below, I will focus on all of the picks and the plethora of trades that defined San Francisco’s 2020 NFL Draft.
First Round, 14th Pick: Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina
What’s not to like about this selection? San Francisco finds an immediate replacement for the recently traded DeForest Buckner in that of a defensive tackle many had ranked No. 1 on their board at that position. Kinlaw (6-foot-5, 324 pounds) is a physical specimen. He can bull rush with the best of them and possesses surprising athleticism for someone his size. Kinlaw can also play multiple positions a long the offensive line. Seen as a boom or bust prospect, the South Carolina product has All-Pro upside.
In terms of need, San Francisco now has its four starters along the defensive line sewed up. Kinlaw joins Pro Bowlers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford as well as last year’s leading sack getter Arik Armstead to form an elite foursome for the defending NFC champs. The only issue I have with this selection is the fact that wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb were both on the board for John Lynch and Co. Grade: B+
First Round, 25th Pick: Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
Some were surprised that San Francisco went Aiyuk rather than better-known wide receiver prospects. Not me. He fits perfectly with what Kyle Shanahan does on the offensive side of the ball.
Aiyuk (6-foot, 205 pounds) is similar to that of Deebo Samuel in that he’s quick off the break, can feast against man coverage and provides open windows underneath. His ability to get yards after the catch is something else, too.
The dude averaged nearly 10 yards after the catch at Arizona State. A Day 1 starter, San Francisco could not have asked more with this pick. The only real issue I have is that the team yielded two valuable draft picks in a move up from 31 to select him. Though, that suggests other teams between picks 26 and 30 were in on Aiyuk, too. Grade: A
Fifth Round, 153rd Pick: Colton McKivitz, Offensive Tackle, West Virginia
Acquired from the Miami Dolphins in the Matt Breida trade, San Francisco picks up a pro-ready lineman who is coming off earning All-American honors as a senior for the Mountaineers.
The 6-foot-6, 306-pound McKivitz was a four-year starter at West Virginia. He split time between left tackle and right tackle, playing on the blindside last season. He’s a perfect fit in San Francisco’s zone-blocking system and could even play guard if needed. Grade: A
Sixth Round, 190th Pick: Charlie Woerner, Tight End, Georgia
This one surprised me big time. It’s not a shock that San Francisco went tight end with one of their few selections. That had been bandied about for some time now. Rather, it’s that the 49ers added a block-first tight end instead of opting for Thaddeus Moss (LSU) or Hunter Bryant (Washington).
Woerner caught all of nine passes last season for the Bulldogs. Though, the tape does show that he boasts plus-level hands. He’s initially going to be used as a blocker, freeing up George Kittle to do his thing. Given that the All-Pro tight end was used too much as a blocker last season, that’s no small thing. Woerner can also play fullback, if needed. Grade: C+
Seventh Round, 217th Pick: Jauan Jennings, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
San Francisco absolutely nailed this pick. Not too many times can we say that a Super Bowl team selected a seventh-round pick who is more than likely going to make the 53-man roster. Jennings is just that.
The 6-foot-3 former Tennessee star provides a tremendous window to through to on the outside and boasts a huge catch radius. While he lacks speed, Jennings will rarely be brought down on a first tackle attempt and provides a big red-zone target for Jimmy Garoppolo. It doesn’t hurt that he already boasts pro-ready route-running ability. The selection of Jennings puts fellow youngsters Dante Pettis and Richie James on notice. Grade: A+
Trent Williams Trade
This obviously has to be part of the 49ers’ draft review. It was absolutely shocking to learn early Saturday that San Francisco had traded for this seven-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer. Once news broke that the 49ers had indeed acquired Williams, longtime San Francisco star Joe Staley announced his retirement.
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We’ll be talking a lot about Staley’s brilliant 14-year career in San Francisco over the next several days. But from an on-field standpoint, Williams is a dramatic upgrade on the blindside. Staley struggled with injuries last season. He’s four years older than Williams. He did not play at a high level last season. These three things can be true while still respecting what the six-time Pro Bowler meant to San Francisco.
The 49ers’ ability to get Williams for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and a third rounder next year was an absolute steal. His knowledge of Kyle Shanahan’s system stemming from their days together with Washington is also a plus here. Grade: A+
Bottom Line (Grade: A)
I can’t simply look at the five selections San Francisco made over the three-day draft. That would be ignorant. There’s a lot of layers to analyzing their draft.
First off, the acquisitions of Emmanuel Sanders and Dee Ford have to be taken into account. San Francisco yielded three picks in this draft in separate trades for these two over the past year-plus. Even with Sanders having left in free agency, the 49ers would not have earned a trip to the Super Bowl without these two.
The acquisition of Williams also has to be taken into account when looking at the 49ers’ 2020 draft class. In addition to bringing in two immediate starters in that of Kinlaw and Aiyuk, the 49ers added three Pro Bowlers with their selections. When was the last time that happened?
From a draft pick standpoint, San Francisco aced its first two selections. Not too often does a Super Bowl team add two immediate starters. Kinlaw comes in as a cheaper and younger version of DeForest Buckner. Aiyuk represents a long-term replacement for the above-mentioned Sanders opposite Deebo Samuel.
The 49ers were among the biggest winners of the 2020 NFL Draft. That’s objectively true, and it sets them up well for both the 2020 season and moving forward.
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